CHENNAI: When you’re the one person all of Chennai looks up to for a daily dose of Madras history — it’s got to get a wee bit tiring one would imagine. And S Muthiah, although always raring to go on his favourite subject, does admit the same in the midst of rather hectic Madras Week, steeped ankle deep in lectures at colleges and heritage walks. “We’ve got to get more people to start talking at these programmes,” he says with a smile. “And more people attending! We have had so many events this past month that I think didn’t get their due.” This particular evening however, saw a rather distinguished audience, heavy with salt and pepper haired guests in full attendance at the Vivanta by Taj-Connemara. The reason, is the launch of two books by Chennai’s favourite historian.
The first is the seventh edition of his book Madras Rediscovered and the other is the second edition of Tales of Old and New Madras— personal tribute to the city with a collection of 38 tales.
The panel of speakers on the dias include historian Sriram V, Tamil translator for Madras Rediscovered C V Karthik Narayanan, Admiral (retired) Mohan Raman and Regional Joint Commissioner of the Corporation of Chennai, Dr R Anandakumar. The latter even sang a Bharathiar song as part of his address and showered much praise on the journalist-author.
The big highlight of the night was the cutting of a massive ‘Central Station’ cake to mark the occasion of Madras Day, over the weekend. However, it’s safe to say that accommodating 375 candles was too large a feat to attempt!
Later, when all the chatter had died down, we ask Muthiah how he manages to juggle it all — his column, the books, the events...“Do you know how old I am?” he responds, catching us by surprise. This is followed by some guessing, before he reveals grandly, “I am 85 years old...and I have been writing ever since I was eight.” However, he smiles a moment later and explains, “I think the reason I am able to do so many things is because for the longest time I was a features editor, which meant I wrote about everything.” He adds with a laugh, “I can write quite a good fashion copy you know...” What we wouldn’t do for a glimpse of one those epic finds!
For now, he leaves us with, “I already have 30 new pages-worth of new material for my next book (or next edition).” We’ll just have to wait and see.
This brings us to something retired Admiral Mohan Raman says as he concludes his address. “I discovered quite by accident that there is a General Muthiah Street in George Town,” he recalls with a laugh. “Long may he lead us.” Hear, hear!
Madras Rediscovered and Tales of Old and New Madras published by Westland are priced at `595 and `495 respectively.